COVER STORY | April 20, 2021 would have been the 70th birthday of Luther Ronzoni Vandross. Born in New York in 1951, Vandross is inarguably one of the greatest singers of all time, with 14 studio albums released in his 25-year career span. 35 million records sold. Eight Grammy Awards. Eight #1 R&B albums. Seven #1 R&B singles. Luther is legend.
In time for Vandross’ heavenly birthday milestone, Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, announced the RIAA certification of four of his iconic singles: “Dance With My Father” (Platinum), “Here and Now” (Platinum), “Endless Love” (Platinum), and “A House Is Not A Home” (Gold).
On April 26, 1991, Luther Vandross released Power of Love via Epic Records. Following the success of his sixth album, Any Love, in 1988, his seventh set had high standards to surpass. A blend of traditional and contemporary R&B as well as New Jack Swing, the 30-year-old LP still stands as one of Vandross’ best-selling albums and a crossover landmark in his career.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it proved to be the winning recipe as Vandross continued to work alongside co-producer Marcus Miller, accompanied by keyboardist Nat Adderley, Jr. Luther’s exquisite crop of co-vocalists continue to be unmatched with support that included Cissy Houston, Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Tawatha Agee, Paulette McWilliams, Cindy Mizelle, Fonzi Thornton, and Brenda White-King.
The lead single “Power of Love (Love Power)” was a buoyant return for the velvet tenor who left fans hungering since 1989’s mid-tempo, “For You to Love”. A fusion of R&B, soul, pop, and gospel, there was a serving that satiated day one fans as well as new listeners. Two-thirds into the record, Vandross interpolates the 1968 moderately hit “Love Power” by one-hit R&B group,The Sandpebbles, backed by his choir of supporting vocalists. The song would share R&B’s best kept secret with the world, achieving pop success that climbed the charts as a No.1 hit.
Luther returned to his roots, appealing to his core audience on the follow-up single, “Don’t Want To Be A Fool”. In his element of sophisticated melody and contemporary soul, the song feels like second nature with Vandross and Miller at the pen. One of the album’s highlights, it would become a staple in Vandross’ songbook. The song broke through the Billboard Top 10 chart at No.9 and peaked at No. 4 on the US R&B Singles.
Vandross’ eloquent entries of love and loss-of-love carry the 10-track album with heartfelt tracks like “The Rush”, I Want The Night To Stay”, and “Sometimes It’s Only Love”. The album closes with “I (Who Have Nothing)” is a soul-stirring rendition of the Ben E. King in duet with the great Martha Wash. Although it was never officially released as a single, it was a favorite among fans.
Power of Love went on to win two American Music Awards and two Grammy Awards including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 34th Grammy Awards ceremony, beating out Peabo Bryson (Can You Stop The Rain), Teddy Pendergrass (“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”), Keith Washington (“Kissing You”) and James Brown (“Love Over-Due”).
Power of Love would be the last Luther Vandross album to reach #1 on the R&B charts until his 2003 release, Dance with my Father. Vandross battled for many years with weight, hypertension and diabetes, and suffered a stroke in 2003 and a fatal heart attack at age 54 in 2005.
Google honored the singer on his birthday with a doodle and animated short dedicated to his musical legacy. We love you, Luther!